Another Extra Epic Thursday Product Post

Of course every New Product Post is epic, but this one is a little extra epic than most. We have some seriously cool stuff this week, so check out the video and the post.

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Last week I apologized for not having a ton of new products. I warned promised that this week would be epic. Well, I wasn't lying. We have some seriously cool stuff this week and I am very excited to show you what we have. That being said, here is the video for this week.

For all your robot builders out there, this is the week for you! We're trying to get a better selection of robot parts and this week our shipment of new and cool robot toys arrived. Let's look at everything we have.

Robotic claws are essential for anyone looking to make a cool robot. These claws are metal and work with the servo motors listed below. They have a pretty strong grip, are well made, and easy to mount. Your next robot deserves claws!

You can't have a robotic claw without a motor to drive it. Well, I guess you could have it without a motor, but it wouldn't be nearly as cool. This medium servo works great with our robot claw, among other things. It's a good size for a servo motor and fits right in the middle of our small and large servo motors.

We have a lot of internal group emails here at SparkFun. We email each other funny pictures (I'm looking at you Gordon), neat videos, and of course cool projects. One that was getting passed around was the universal gripper. The universal gripper is a clever contraption that essentially uses coffee grounds and suction to create a gripper which an conform to any shape desired. Once we saw this, it was decided that we needed a vacuum pump so we could make our own. It turns out to be quite easy. Check the video above for simple instructions. And of course you can use it for all sorts of other projects.

Looking to make a face-tracking USB-powered laser turret? Well, you will probably need a pan/tilt bracket. Thankfully, we now sell one! A pan/tilt bracket allows you to use two servo motors to create a panning and tilting mechanism for webcams, robotics, or even miniature laser turrets. These come as just the brackets and hardware but work perfectly with our small servos.

I knew the minute I put in the order for the Rover 5 Robot Platform it would not only make a fun demo video, but it would be very popular. With large wheels, beefy tank treads, 4 motors with encoders, this is an awesome base. We were thrilled to find this versatile robot platform. This makes for a really good platform for a lot of vehicles and would be great for the upcoming AVC.

We had a lot of requests to come out with a more accurate clock that had more features. After some research we ended up using the DeadOn DS3234 RTC. It features 2 alarms, low power consumption, and an SPI interface. Ask and you shall receive! Well, in theory.

It's really annoying when you move your project from the breadboard to an enclosure and you don't have nice jumper wire assemblies to make everything look neat and tidy. Sure, you could have planned ahead and used fancy connectors and such, but what fun is that? Thankfully, we have a whole bunch of new jumper wires that are non-keyed (JST RE connectors) and work with standard 0.1" headers. We have them in 4" (2, 3, 4, 5, and 6-pin), 6" (2, 3, 4, 5, and 6-pin), and 12" (2, 3, 4, 5, and 6-pin).

In addition to the cables above, we also have some 8" cable assemblies that use the smaller JST SH connector. We are starting to use these on a lot of our products since the connectors are very small and can be reflowed. These come with bare wire on one end, and with a JST SH connector and header on the other end. We have them in 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6-wire configurations.

In addition to the black project notebook, we also now carry it in SparkFun Red. It's a great notebook and if you want to show-off your geek, there isn't a much better way. Well, except for carrying a SparkFun pint glass while wearing a SparkFun t-shirt, with a lab coat with a patch on it with a pocket protector in the pocket, wearing safety goggles. But that would just be silly.

Well, there you have it. Hopefully it was epic enough for you. Next week we have another batch of cool stuff coming out, so come back next week. We really do have some great stuff next week too. I'll see you then.

Comments 46 comments

  • AdamTolley / about 12 years ago / 2

    Curse you SparkFun.
    I do not have the income to fund this addiction.

  • sirfuzz / about 12 years ago / 2

    What's the music playing at the beginning of the video? It sounds familiar...

  • SomeGuy123 / about 12 years ago * / 2

    This is an excellent new product post. You guys are competing with servocity now. You just need to sell PWM housings, pins, and hitec servos.

    • sigh, our work is never done.

      • Nope, never done. For example I'd like to see some BJT NPN transistors that can handle more current than 200mA.

        • OddBot / about 12 years ago / 2

          BD681 and BD682 are a good choice.
          They are rated at 4A / 40W with a maximum voltage of 100V.
          They are darlington transistors so they can be driven by a processors digital output pins with just a series resistor to the base.
          Built in protection diodes make them ideal for "H" bridge designs.

          • Thanks, but I can't find them here and I often use MPS2222As from Radioshack for that purpose... max current is 600mA... but they cost the same as 2N3904s from there which is 24 cents more than from here! Kinda annoying...

    • Neverhood / about 12 years ago / 1

      I'd say Sparkfun is wayy better than servo city just because of the overall information on this site.

  • NerdyFirefighter / about 12 years ago / 2

    Epic indeed!
    There is something that has been bugging me about that robot platform for some time (after seeing it around the interwebs)...
    When you change the distance between the axles (by swinging them around into a pitched config like your roving model does), do the treads stretch and contract to meet the new distance or how does that work exactly?

    • They are a bit stretchy. Moving the motors around will create more slack in the treads. If you move them too much, you might want to just do wheels (or an idler pulley?) because they would be too slack. The adjustment is mainly if you are going to use wheels. But it goes over quite a bit as you can see.

  • DmitryS / about 12 years ago / 1

    Very nice gripper!
    I've ordered one...

  • creeg2 / about 12 years ago / 1

    What kind of setup do you have running the robot platform? Looks like an Arduino stack. What motor controller did you use with it? Any information about that project is appreciated. Thanks! Cool products!

    • Yeah, the video got too long so we had to cut that part out.
      It's an Arduino, two motor driver shields, and an XBee shield. On the controller side, it's just an XBee shield and a joystick shield attached to an Arduino.
      We were not using the encoders for this setup, as we really just wanted it to drive around, and didn't care about speed control and such. It was a very basic setup.

    • Robro / about 12 years ago / 1

      I am also interesed in the setup you have on the Rover platform, Ive got one of these and plan on getting it running with my android phone too, just waiting on some little bluetooth modules... Great parts!

  • Finally!!!!!!!!!

    jumper wires that are non-keyed (JST RE connectors) and work with standard 0.1" headers
    I had to go to Fry's and buy some build your own headers and hack up some IDE cable before.

  • Pokey / about 12 years ago / 1

    What would be really extra epic would be build-it-yourself .1" cable harnesses. Sell multicolor wires terminated in the JST RE sockets and then sell a variety of 1 and 2 row socket frames that we can wire ourselves. I use the single socket wires you sell for a lot of proto stuff, but sometimes I want to make a cable that's a little more permanent.

  • doobie / about 12 years ago / 1

    And I just placed an order the other I have to make another order!

  • dwc309 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Maybe you ought to give a time deduction at the AVC challenge for all who come equipped with & wearing the
    "he black project (red) notebook .... (and) carrying a SparkFun pint glass (whilst) wearing a SparkFun t-shirt, with a lab coat with a patch on it with a pocket protector in the pocket, wearing safety goggles."

  • madsci1016 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Anyone getting into robotics, I suggest visiting
    It's been around for a very long time, has tons of beginner robot tutorials, including the infamous $50 robot tutorial. And a large community of members for support.

  • benJc / about 12 years ago / 1

    I think we need a photo of a dapper Sparkfun employee wearing wearing a SparkFun t-shirt, with a lab coat with a patch on it with a pocket protector in the pocket, wearing safety goggles drinking a beer from the Sparkfun keg in a SparkFun pint glass while writing in a Sparkfun notebook.
    That would fit your epic theme too.

  • Probably my favorite product post - I added 6 out of 9 products to my wish list. It's amazing to think that you guys do this every Thursday, and still produce!!! Love it.

  • straylight / about 12 years ago / 1

    You guys should do a quarterly prize pack that helps prototypers build their electronic supplies. You could choose a customer randomly 4 times a year.
    kits could include: (based on my personal experiences of building a supply)
    resistor packs
    ic sockets
    header pins (wide variety)
    jumper wires
    pref board
    or you could include something more advanced in there. like a soldering station, function generator kit, or bench supply kit :)
    just a thought. :)
    p.s. to make sure you guys actually carried a function generator, i did a search with "funkshun jenerador" well played phonics.

    • good idea, but it seems every time we try and give away free stuff, it just attracts all the internet trolls :-)

      • straylight / about 12 years ago / 1

        quote: "choose a customer"
        some random person from your customer base. not just a random person signing up for an account!
        Maybe it would entice people to buy something in order to be eligible for the free stuff :)

        • N.Poole / about 12 years ago / 1

          The customer selection could be automatically made by a piece of software that tracks orders and pseudo-randomly selects the winner from a lottery of names weighted by the total of their order amounts. The more you spend, the more you win!

          • Tom1 / about 12 years ago / 1

            The cynic in me says, "if they're spending so much, why does sparkfun need to give them free stuff?" hehe
            How about giving out free $5 coupons towards a $200 purchase. Sparkfun should give me free stuff for my business advice :)

          • It sounds like a lot of work to give away things. Like I said, I'll think about it.

        • Yeah, I like where you are going with it. I'll think about it.

  • DMAC / about 12 years ago / 1

    Man I'm lovin Thursdays new product goodness! You guys rock!

  • N.Poole / about 12 years ago / 1

    Happy Thursday indeed! What a nasty product post.
    I'm psyched about the claw and even more psyched that it's metal so maybe it'll take some abuse.
    And great demo of the adaptive gripper, I remember seeing this being discussed for the first time on the Open Prosthetics Project page. They were filling a rubber glove with small plastic beads. That Vacuum pump is nice (32psi? really?) Oh, but you need to correct the description and add a " to the vacuum rating (0-16 inches Mercury, not just 0-16 Mercury, lol)
    Hmmm... Oh, those tank treads are sweet, when u said tank treads I was imagining something less impressive I saw in an Edmonds Scientific catalog back in the day, but these are great!
    And finally, that pan/tilt gimbal is going to be a lifesaver. I have a few projects lined up that needs some pan/tilt camera action and I was dreading building my own, and that one is quick, so that's pretty sweet.
    All in all, you did not disappoint, Epic it is.

    • nasty? did you mean tasty?

      • N.Poole / about 12 years ago / 2

        I meant nasty, but good nasty.
        tasty would also be applicable. It was quite tasty as well.

        • When I was in school, we needed a word that meant both tasty and nasty. I cannot recall why exactly. I think we were referring to either women or beer- well, it would have had to have been one of those. In any case, we decided to use tasty, spelled thus but pronounced with the short 'a' of nasty. Tast ee. The connotation was much more ambiguous than what you mean, I think.

        • AdamTolley / about 12 years ago / 1


  • straylight / about 12 years ago / 1

    the robot wheels look like they aren't too durable. and for $60? yikes!

    • really? they're a LOT thicker than anything we've seen. Check the closeup of the treads on the product page.

      • straylight / about 12 years ago / 1

        ok, well the wheel's rubber are thick. but i actually meant the plastic housing of the base.
        Maybe this light plastic would make it for a more portable robot than just a heavy metal robot.
        sorry for the confusion.

        • It's not as light as you might think. The whole platform weighs about 2.5 pounds and is pretty sturdy. In making the video, it fell several times (from a couple/few feet up) and is fine. It feels much more substantial than a lot of bases we've seen. But yes, it's not metal, but it doesn't cost what a metal platform would cost either.

  • Tejon / about 12 years ago / 1

    uhmm, I need save money to buy and ship the robot platform and the brakets+servos :D

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